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2016 Honda Accord: It's time to beat the bland

The 2016 Honda Accord.

The 2016 Honda Accord. Credit: Honda

The mid-cycle refresh for one of North America's top-selling cars represents more than skin-deep alterations, although exterior updates remain all-important when attracting buyers to the Accord camp. 

Whereas most automakers seem content to tweak the looks of their vehicles after the first three or four years on the market, Honda has taken a more dramatic approach for its coupe and sedan. The noses, headlights, fog lights and LED taillights on its two- and four-door Accords appear to be influenced by those vehicles from the upscale Acura line.

The grille has what is best described as an Acura-like shield, while the LED headlight pods on the Touring model seem similarly Acura-influenced (lesser trims use halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights).

There are fresh wheel designs for all trim levels, including new 19-inchers for the top-rung Accord Touring.

The body itself has been reengineered to provide greater rigidity and the sedan's (but not the coupe's) hood is now made from aluminum (for weight savings) instead of steel.

Interior changes, as subtle as they may be, go further than seat fabrics and trim. A font change for the gauges makes them easier to read and a rearview camera is now standard. Most Accords also have a handy (and long overdue) 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

So let's go about this a different way: is there anything that hasn't changed? A powertrain examination reveals some familiar engines, starting with a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Optional in the EX-L and Touring trims is a 278-horsepower V6.

Honda will also have a hybrid sedan available with improved performance and fuel economy, but it won't be available for several more months (arriving as a 2017 model).

For now, the 2.4 is tops in fuel economy with a rating of 27 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. The latter value is improved by one mpg from before due to better aerodynamics and a reduction in piston friction. 

As good as those numbers are - better than the Toyota Camry's, Hyundai Sonata's and Ford Fusion's -- they still don't top the Nissan Altima and Mazda6 sedans.

Honda has also worked on the optional continuously variable transmission's operating efficiency so that it feels more like a geared automatic. As CVTs go, it's pretty decent, but a small percentage of drivers will likely choose the base six-speed manual gearbox in their four-cylinder sedans and coupes. V6 sedans come with a six-speed automatic transmission, exclusively, while opting for the V6 coupe gives you the choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

Changes have also been made to the Accord's ride, handling and steering qualities.
As before, base LX sedans ($22,900) and LX-S coupes ($24,600) arrive with plenty of standard equipment. But moving up a step to the Sport will get you the split-folding rear seat, seven-inch touch-screen, rear spoiler, beefier front brakes and 19-inch wheels. The EX comes with most of the Sport's gear (except it has 18-inch wheels) and adds an upgraded audio and communications package, 10-way power driver's seat and remote engine start. 

The top-level Touring trim has heated rear seats, automatic high beams and forward/reverse parking alerts. "Honda Sensing" is also included (available in other Accord models) and is the umbrella brand for the company's adaptive cruise control (maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead), lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, and lane keeping assist (steers the car back into the driver's intended lane). Honda Sensing also encompasses systems designed to automatically prevent you from rear-ending another vehicle, and from driving off the road.

Is it all enough to keep you driving Hondas for the rest of your life? Probably, since Honda folks tend be loyal. But it's more than a matter of merely keeping up and staying fresh since growing the company's marketshare (by winning buyers loyal to other brands) is what business is all about. Since most vehicles in this class have very similar technology in everything from safety to powertrains, it really comes down to style now. Honda nailed this one.

What you should know: 2016 Honda Accord

Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan and coupe.

Engines (hp): 2.4-liter DOHC I4 (185); 3.5-liter SOHC V6 (278)

Transmissions: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (CVT); six-speed automatic 

Market position: Honda and Toyota run neck and neck for top spot among North American sedan buyers. The 2016 Accord ups the ante with more style, a wide array of techno-content and a sharp-looking coupe to boot.

Points: Reshaped front and rear styling is an overall improvement and makes the coupe really sizzle; Base four-cylinder engine is near the top in fuel economy, but smooth-performing V6 is hard to ignore; Both models rank high in fun-to-drive quotient; Will Honda ever offer all-wheel-drive as an Accord option, as do many of its competitors?

Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.

MPG (city/hwy) 27/37 (2.4, CVT); Base price (incl. destination) $22,900, $24,600 (coupe)


By comparison

Ford Fusion
Base price: $23,000
Roomy four-door comes with three gas engine picks and optional AWD.

Chrysler 200
Base price: $23,000
New-for-2015 sedan has snappy styling plus a brawny 295-hp V6 option.

Hyundai Sonata
Base price: $22,000
An all four-cylinder engine lineup helps the Sonata's fuel-stretching capability.

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